Tag Archive: ABC Television


Charlies-Angels

Charlie’s Angels are a trio of female private investigators, the stars of an American crime drama that aired on ABC Television from September 1976 to June 1981. Despite mixed reviews, and a reputation for being “Jiggle TV,” the show enjoyed immense popularity with viewers. The series spawned a film revival in the 2000s, and a short-lived attempt at TV resurrection, in 2011.

The Premise

Three talented women graduate from the police academy, only to be assigned menial jobs like handling the switchboard or directing traffic. The ladies are recruited to work for The Townsend Agency, as private investigators. Their boss, Charles Townsend a.k.a. Charlie, nicknames them “Angels.”

Charlie – whose face is never seen – assigns cases to the Angels and his liaison, John Bosley, via a speaker phone in their office. Unlike the Angels, Bosley has met Charlie, and can contact him at any time.

Initially, the Angels were:

1. Sabrina Duncan (played by Kate Jackson): a graduate of the Los Angeles police academy – the unofficial leader of the trio. Sabrina is a divorcé who remains on good terms with her ex-husband. She eventually leaves The Townsend Agency to get married and start a family.

2. Jill Munroe (actress Farrah Fawcett): a graduate of the Los Angeles police academy. Jill is unmarried, athletic, and charismatic. She leaves The Townsend Agency to pursue a career as a race car driver and is replaced by her younger sister, Kris (see later). Jill returns to the agency occasionally (Season 3), when needed for a specific case.

3. Kelly Garrett (played by Jaclyn Smith): also a graduate of the Los Angeles police academy. Kelly grew up in an orphanage; a tough cookie, but with the sensitivity to help others in need.

Here they are, in a clip from 1976 (video comes courtesy of YouTube):

In most episodes, a crime is committed, the Angels are given the case details, and then go undercover to solve the mystery. The final scene takes place back at the Townsend office, with Charlie offering congratulations for a job well done.

The show was intended as a classy undercover detective drama, and worked in that vein for some time. Until the network got caught up in the whole “three hot chicks we can dress up in skimpy outfits, to boost our ratings” thing.

Disgruntled, Farrah Fawcett, then Kate Jackson left the series, sparking the first of several high-profile searches for new stars.

And Then, There Were…

In subsequent seasons, the Angels’ line-up would include:

4. Kris Munroe (actress Cheryl Ladd): younger sister of Jill, and a graduate of the San Francisco police academy. Kris is charming and mildly clumsy, providing the show with comic relief.

5. Tiffany Welles (played by Shelley Hack): a graduate of the Boston police academy. She is recruited in after Sabrina Duncan leaves, and works for The Townsend Agency only for a brief period before moving back east.

6. Julie Rogers (actress Tanya Roberts): a fashion model from The Bronx. Moving to Los Angeles, she worked with an undercover agent to expose drug dealers within the modeling industry. After her partner is killed, she’s recruited by The Townsend Agency on a trial basis to replace Tiffany Welles.

The series ran for five seasons, with ABC canceling the show in the spring of 1981 due to declining ratings.

Back – With a Movie

Charlie’s Angels returned via the big screen, in a 2000 American action comedy directed by McG.

The film starred Cameron Diaz as Natalie Cook, Drew Barrymore as Dylan Sanders, and Lucy Liu as Alex Munday – the latest in a long line of operatives of the Charles Townsend detective agency. The premise being that new Angels are drafted in over the years, as their predecessors leave for one reason or another.

John Forsythe returned as the voice of Charlie, with Bill Murray stepping into the shoes of his go-between, Bosley.

Set in the present day, the movie adventure sees the ladies embroiled in a complex case involving enigmatic villains, voice-recognition software, and a plot to kill their boss.

The Angels of the 21st century have stepped up their game, considerably – with Matrix-level martial arts skills, and near-genius IQs.

Here’s some of both at work, in an entertaining fight scene, from the movie (courtesy of YouTube):

With a well-crafted mystery, and three stunning leads exuding glamour, mad skills, and goofy charm in equal turns, the film was a critical and box-office success.

It spawned a sequel (2003’s “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle”), which was notable for a cameo by Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett, and the introduction of Demi Moore as former Angel turned crackpot ultra-villain Madison Lee. And not much else.

The sequel did however make enough money to whet the studio’s appetite for a television comeback.

The Short-Lived TV Revival

In November 2009, ABC announced it was considering a television revival of Charlie’s Angels, with Josh Friedman handling both writing and executive producing duties. The reboot movie’s Drew Barrymore shared co-production with Leonard Goldberg.

On May 13, 2011, ABC announced a 13-episode order for the series. The network canceled, after only four episodes.

Some Behind-the-Scenes Stuff You (Probably) Didn’t Know

* Kate Jackson – who had earned kudos for her portrayal of a cop’s wife, in popular police drama, “The Rookies” – was earmarked for a role during pre-production, and didn’t even have to audition. Initially cast as Kelly Garrett, Jackson opted instead for the role of Sabrina Duncan. That’s why the early part of the pilot episode focuses heavily on the Jaclyn Smith character; the casting change was made too late, for further rewrites.

* The show was initially titled “The Alley Cats”. But Kate Jackson suggested to the producers that the heroines should be called “angels”, instead. Jackson also came up with the idea that their boss should be a mystery man (both to the characters and the viewers), and that the Angels should receive their cases over a speaker phone.

* The Angels’ boss was originally going to be called Harry, but the title (“Harry’s Angels”) was dropped, so as not to conflict with “Harry O.”, another television detective series.

* I won’t say “cat-fight”, but stars Kate Jackson and Cheryl Ladd didn’t get along, during the show’s second season. Jackson believed the inclusion of relatively inexperienced actress Ladd had damaged the series considerably. Their animosity on-set reportedly placed great strain on the show’s producers, and their co-star Jaclyn Smith.

* The show became infamous as “Jiggle TV” or “T&A TV” (“Tits & Ass Television”), among critics who believed it had no substance other than its scantily-clad title characters. The skimpy outfits – roller derby girl, beauty pageant contestant, maid, female prisoner, or just plain old bikini – were justified as essential plot elements for the Angels, who often went undercover (so to speak).

* ABC attempted a spin-off for “Charlie’s Angels” in 1980 called “Toni’s Boys”. Essentially a gender reversal, it starred Barbara Stanwyck as Antonia “Toni” Blake, a wealthy widow and friend of Charlie Townsend’s who also ran a detective agency. The outfit was staffed by three good looking male detectives who took orders from Toni, and solved crimes in a manner similar to the Angels.

Never heard of it? No, neither had I; the show wasn’t picked up.

Well, that’s your lot, for now.

See you, for the next one.

Till then.

Peace.

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Baretta-n-Fred

“Baretta” is an American detective series which ran on ABC Television from 1975 to 1978.

The show was a toned-down version of the successful 1973–74 ABC series, “Toma”. This starred Tony Musante as the chameleonic, real-life New Jersey undercover police officer David Toma. Despite its popularity, the show received intense criticism for its realistic and frequent depictions of police and criminal violence.

When Musante left the series after a single season, the concept was rebooted as “Baretta”, with Robert Blake in the title role.

Now, Robert Blake (born Michael “Mickey” Vincenzo Gubitosi) began his career as one of “The Little Rascals”, child stars of a very popular series of comedy shorts, made during the 1940s.

He was also one of the very few members of the Our Gang (as the kids were known) to:
(a) make it to a ripe old age (born 1933; he’s still with us) and
(b) make it in acting, as an adult.

But, I digress.

The Premise

Detective Anthony Vincenzo “Tony” Baretta is an unorthodox plainclothes cop (Badge #609) with the 53rd precinct of an unnamed Eastern city (suspiciously like Newark, New Jersey). He lives with Fred, his Triton Sulfur-crested Cockatoo, in apartment 2C at the run-down King Edward Hotel.

The Man

Like his predecessor David Toma, Tony Baretta adopted many disguises on the job.

When not in disguise, Baretta usually wore a T-shirt, jeans and a soft cap. He often carried an unlit cigarette in his lips or behind his ear.

When exasperated, he would occasionally speak in asides to his late father, Louie Baretta.

His catchphrases included “You can take that to the bank”, and “And that‘s the name of that tune.”

That Tune

Speaking of which, here’s a YouTube video of the opening credits, set to the iconic theme tune “Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow”.
The song was composed by Dave Grusin & Morgan Ames, and performed by no less than Sammy Davis, Jr. (ask your folks, if you don’t know who he was):

Initially an instrumental, the song was released as a single in Europe in 1976, reaching number one in the Dutch Top 40 as “Baretta’s Theme”.

Wheels and Places

Baretta drove a rusted-out 1966 Chevy Impala four-door sedan nicknamed “The Blue Ghost” (license plate 532 BEN).

In the series the detective hung out at Ross’s Billiard Academy, and referred to his numerous girlfriends as his “cousins”.

Baretta’s People

Supporting characters included:

Billy Truman (actor Tom Ewell), the elderly hotel manager / house detective, who used to work with Tony’s father Louie at the 53rd Precinct.

Rooster (actor Michael D. Roberts), a streetwise pimp and Tony’s favorite informant.

Tony’s supervisors Inspector Shiller (played by Dana Elcar) and Lieutenant Hal Brubaker (actor Edward Grover).

Detective Foley (actor John Ward), an irritating stick-in-the-mud.

“Fats” (played by Chino “Fats” Williams), a gravelly-voiced black detective who often goes on stakeouts with Tony.

Detective Nopke (actor Ron Thompson), a rookie who admires Baretta‘s street smarts.

Little Moe (played by Angelo Rossitto), a shoeshine man and informant.

Mr. Nicholas (actor Titos Vandis), a mob boss.

Mr. Muncie (actor Paul Lichtman), the owner of a liquor store at 52nd and Main.

Where To, Now?

After its initial run in syndication began in 1979, the series later re-appeared on TV Land in 1999, as part of a package of series licensed from Universal.

The show has not aired in over a decade – but it’s still worth a look, as a cultural icon of its day.

“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time”.

That’s good advice, people.

Peace.

Angel-AI

“Angel” is a television series created by Joss Whedon (director of “Marvel’s The Avengers”; co-creator of ABC Television’s “Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD”) and David Greenwalt.

The show ran for 5 seasons on the WB network, and starred David Boreanaz as private investigator Angel, “the vampire with a soul”.

The Premise

The series chronicles the adventures of Liam, an 18th-century landowner’s son, turned into a vampire by the lady Darla (played by Julie Benz).

Adopting the vampire name Angelus, Liam massacred his entire village, then took off with Darla on a murderous rampage that lasted 140 years, and spanned the civilized world.

Now, assuming that each of them had to consume the blood of at least one human every day, for 365 days a year (Leap Years, too), for 140 years… Well; do the math.

Most prolific serial killers in history.

Until Darla made the fatal error of procuring a young Gypsy girl, for Angelus to consume.

The girl’s family took revenge in a cruelly subtle way. They put a curse on Angelus, restoring his human soul – and with it, his memory of every person he’d killed.

Driven to the edge of insanity by guilt and remorse, Angelus sought redemption.

Changing his name to Angel, he became a warrior for Good. Hunting down vampires, demons, and assorted Hell-beasts that prey on humans.

Fast forward to the 21st century, and the California town of Sunnydale.

There, Angel falls in love with a teenager, Buffy Ann Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar). As Fate would have it, Buffy is the latest in an ages-long line of Slayers: one girl, per generation, endowed with superhuman abilities by The Powers That Be, to slay vampires, demons, and assorted Hell-beasts that…

Hmm.

Crusading vampire.

Vampire-slaying teen.

Cue angst, in the pre-“Twilight” era.

I’ll let Cordelia Chase (with a little help from Wesley Wyndham-Price) explain.
Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

Too much emotional baggage.

So, Angel left Sunnydale, for the City of Angels. There, he set up Angel Investigations (AI), a detective agency specializing in paranormal cases.

The AI Team

Here’s the bulk of them, in an extended credits sequence from YouTube, set to the show’s iconic theme tune:

You’re only as good as your supporting characters, and Angel had some great ones.

Doyle: Played by Glenn Quinn.

Doyle was the hard-drinking hybrid son of a human father, and demon mother.

Hard-drinking, because The Powers That Be bestowed on him the gift of visions. Or rather, garbled views of supernatural dangers currently happening, or yet to come – accompanied by Olympic-class migraine headaches.

Prior to his heroic death, saving the world, Doyle passed his gift on, to…

Cordelia “Cordy” Chase: Played by Charisma Carpenter.

Gorgeous, self-proclaimed “meanest bitch in the history of Sunnydale High”, Cordelia was more than just mean girl eye candy.

Funny, and incisively truthful in her bitchiness, Cordy signed on initially as a 2-words-per-hour secretary to Angel, after failing to make it in L.A. as an actress.

Handy with ancient weapons (she was one of Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s “Scooby Gang”, in Sunnydale), Cordelia remained the heart and soul of Angel Investigations. And the AI team’s crucial link to The Powers That Be – via those excruciating visions.

Wesley Wyndham-Price: Played by Alexis Denisof.

Former member of the Watchers’ Council – a group of stuffy British academics tasked with mentoring and providing logistical support to the current Vampire Slayer.

Wesley was booted off the Council when Faith (played by Eliza Dushku) – the Slayer called into action after Buffy Summers was killed – went homicidally rogue.

Reinventing himself as a rogue demon-hunter (“What’s a rogue demon?” as Cordelia puts it), Wesley fell on hard times in L.A., until offered a lifeline by Angel.

As the group’s resident authority on demonology and the paranormal, Wesley became a vital part of Angel Investigations.

Charles Gunn: Played by J. August Richards.

Orphaned by vampires as a child, the young Gunn became the leader of a group of street kids, dedicated to keeping their section of the city a vamp-free zone.

A skilled and inventive fighter, Gunn hooked up with Angel Investigations after his younger sister was turned into a vampire.

Always conflicted about working for a blood-drinker, Gunn later became the team’s expert on legal matters, after Angel was given control of Wolfram & Hart (more on them, later).

Lorne / The Host: Played by Andy Hallett.

Lorne (an abbreviation of his real name; don’t ask) first appeared as The Host of Caritas, a karaoke club with an open-door policy for supernaturals.

A lanky, green-skinned demon of the horned Lucifer variety, Lorne had the ability to read a person’s soul and know their fate, after hearing them sing.

Lorne joined the team after Caritas was destroyed, during one of AI’s cases.

Winnifred “Fred” Burkle: Played by Amy Acker.

A cute as hell (in the nicest possible way) Texan gal, with super-genius IQ.

Fred’s Astro-Physics research got her zapped into a demon dimension, for several years. When Cordelia Chase was ported to the same place, Angel and the gang followed, eventually rescuing both.

Fred stayed on, to lend her considerable intellect to the team – and to charm the socks off of everyone, with her persona.

Fans were devastated, when Fred was killed off – her soul obliterated, to make way for the demon goddess…

Illyria: Played by Amy Acker.

Whose essence had been trapped in an alternate Universe by her enemies, since the dawn of civilization.

Smuggled to Earth in an ancient artifact, her soul was freed, to inhabit a new host body.

Illyria looks a lot like Fred, only with blue hair and eyes, metallic gray skin, and a Clive-Barker’s-Hellraiser-Cenobite-esque black rubber body suit.

She has a formidable range of super-powers (which once included the ability to slow down Time), and occasionally uses them to help the team.

Spike (a.k.a. William the Bloody): Played by James Marsters.

William the Bloody was part of Angelus’ vampire “family”. He was sired by Drusilla (actress Juliet Landau), a loopy psychic who had been turned years earlier by Angelus.

Spike (as in, railroad spike; his favored instrument of torture) was a fearsome and skilled combatant, responsible for the deaths of two Vampire Slayers.

He took the hero’s route after falling in love with Buffy Summers (girl had vampire issues, clearly), and undergoing an ordeal to restore his soul.

After sacrificing himself to save the world, Spike was resurrected by Wolfram & Hart (them, again…), to be a thorn in Angel’s side.
He thwarted this plan, by actually proving an asset to the team.

Connor: Played by Vincent Kartheiser.

The unlikely son of two vampires.

Connor was conceived when Darla was resurrected from Hell as a mortal, by Wolfram & Hart, to seduce Angel.

Even after becoming a vampire again (by her own cunning), Darla’s pregnancy went to term, and Connor was born as his mother “died”.

Kidnapped soon after by the vampire-hunter Daniel Holtz (actor Keith Szarabajka), Connor was taken to an alternate dimension. There, the super-powered youth was raised as a warrior, his mind systematically poisoned against Angel / Angelus.

Returning to Earth as a teenager, Connor joined the ranks of AI. Always borderline: in both his sanity, and his feelings toward his biological father.

Connor’s memory was altered, and he was relocated to a normal family, as part of the deal Angel made to take over Wolfram & Hart. Speaking of which…

The Devil’s Advocates

Any legendary investigator needs a nemesis.

For Angel Investigations, the law firm Wolfram & Hart, was it.

In every dimension where Evil exists, the society of the Wolf, Ram, and Hart (Wolfram & Hart; get it?) is there, aiding and abetting.

In one Universe, they might be a religious order. A warrior sect, in another.

On Earth? They’ve set up as lawyers. The Senior Partners of the practice are High Lords of Hell.

And throughout the 5 years of “Angel’s” run, Wolfram & Hart was dedicated to making the heroic vampire’s life a misery – and advancing the course of the latest Apocalypse.

How Come I Never Knew About This?

The thing with “Angel”?

It was one of those shows that not too many people knew about. But those that did, were instantly hooked.

The stories deal with complex issues of temptation, conscience, and redemption. With wisdom, and enough wit to make you laugh out loud. Often.

If you get the chance, check it out, on DVD.

Time for me to go.

I’ll see you, for our next tale. I hope.

Till then.

Peace.